World Bulletin/News Desk
Opposition leaders in Democratic Republic of Congo called on their supporters to occupy parliament next Monday to block a reform of the electoral code they say is designed to keep President Joseph Kabila in power after his term ends next year.
The law, which cleared a preliminary vote in parliament on Monday despite noisy protests by some deputies, would require the vast central African nation to hold a census before a presidential election scheduled for 2016.
A grouping of opposition parties said in a statement the census would take at least four years and called it a ploy to extend Kabila's time in power. Kabila is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.
Vital Kamerhe, president of the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC), said that demonstrators would hit back against tough police tactics that have thwarted previous protests.
"We have entered a fight with the police," he said. "We're going to fight them with stones."
Frequent opposition protests in Kinshasa have failed to mobilise large numbers and have been easily dispersed. Some Kinshasa residents say they are dissuaded from participating in the marches by fear of the police, while many are sceptical of the political elite after decades of corrupt rule.
An attempted march to parliament on Monday by a few hundred demonstrators was stopped by police in heavy body armour, firing teargas.
Government spokesman Lambert Mende dismissed the opposition's calls, saying it had threatened similar action many times before.
"Every day they announce an occupation of the parliament," he said. "How many times are they going to occupy the parliament? It's 10, 15, 40 times. And there is never an occupation."
The opposition's statement calls for large protests throughout the country, while urging parents to keep their children home from school and shop owners to close their stores.
Last Mod: 16 Ocak 2015, 14:34